Camphor: Uses, Benefits, Etc.

Dealing with camphor safety is easy. This pungent cure-all can heal or harm depending on how it'sit's used. Let's explore some sound advice on handling camphor wisely from leaf tip to liver while tapping its upside without the downside. Read on for practical pointers, ensuring this powerful remedy proves friend, not foe, in your hands.

What Is A Camphor?

For centuries, camphor has been prized in various cultures as a versatile natural remedy. A white, crystalline substance derived from Cinnamomum camphora tree bark and wood through steam distillation and purification. Camphor has a strong, penetrating aroma and spicy flavour, which can provide potential therapeutic benefits.

The chemical composition of camphor can vary based on the specific Cinnamomum camphora variety and geography. However, the main active component is generally camphor itself, along with other elements like linalool, eugenol, safrole, cineole, beta-myrcene, nerolidol, camphene and borneol. Throughout history and across the globe, camphor has been used both internally and externally to treat a wide range of health conditions.

Properties Of Camphor  

Camphor has demonstrated a number of intriguing properties that may explain its popularity in traditional healing practices. Research indicates camphor may offer:

  • Antiseptic effects to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth.
  • Antipruritic effects to relieve symptoms such as itching and inflammation.
  • Analgesic effects to reduce localised pain when applied topically.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects to decrease swelling and irritation.
  • Expectorant effects to loosen mucus secretions.
  • Antitussive effects of suppressing coughing.
  • Potential anticancer abilities according to preliminary studies.
  • Antispasmodic effects to relax muscle spasms.
  • Antifungal properties to combat certain fungal infections.
  • Insecticidal effects to deter certain insects and pests.

Potential Uses Of Camphor

Camphor coins

With such a broad range of demonstrated properties and historical usage, camphor exhibits potential therapeutic value across numerous domains. Some of its most promising health and medicinal applications include:

1. Treating Respiratory Problems

Camphor's impact on the lungs and respiratory tract has made it a staple in traditional treatments for congestion, coughs, and other respiratory discomforts. Research has uncovered camphor's abilities as a decongestant, antitussive, and anti-inflammatory in the respiratory system through various neurological and physiological mechanisms. Specifically, studies on camphor's chemical constituents, like cineole, indicate effects such as:

  • Relieving congestion and opening blocked nasal passages
  • Reducing inflammation in the throat and lungs 
  • Suppressing coughs by soothing respiratory tract irritation

2. Pain Relief

Topically applied camphor has demonstrated analgesic and mild numbing effects in both traditional practices and some scientific research. When used externally, camphor may work by stimulating nerve endings in a way that dulls pain signal transmission. Early trials suggest it could offer localised relief from arthritis, back pain, sprains and muscle soreness when applied as a cream or salve. However, human evidence remains limited, warranting caution without medical professional consultation.

3. Skin Treatment  

In addition to pain relief, externally applied camphor has traditional and scientific backing for treating skin inflammation and irritation. Its skin-calming and mild numbing abilities may stem from bioactive compounds interacting with sensory nerves. Camphor creams and ointments have exhibited anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties in preliminary studies, especially in managing localised symptoms of eczema, dermatitis and other inflammatory conditions. However, individuals with skin conditions should see a dermatologist and use camphor products cautiously under medical supervision only.     

4. Osteoarthritis Management

Early osteoarthritis research hinting at camphor's efficacy combines it with popular supplements glucosamine and chondroitin. The theory is camphor'scamphor's numbing, anti-inflammatory effect, when applied topically around joints, may temporarily ease localised arthritis discomfort. However, human studies are severely limited in isolating camphor's effects. Any individuals experiencing arthritis symptoms should thus consult a physician before attempting to use camphor.

5. Low Blood Pressure Regulation  

While camphor itself can pose blood pressure risks in high amounts, one medicinal combination called Korodin seems promising and reasonably safe for low blood pressure management. This mixture of camphor and hawthorn extract displayed effectiveness and tolerability for boosting problematic low blood pressure in one human trial. However, optimal camphor dosing and treatment duration for hypotension remains to be determined with further research. Those with low BP should consult professionals rather than self-prescribe camphor.

Administering Camphor 

Camphor cubes

Under appropriate medical supervision, camphor can be carefully administered both internally and externally in various forms, including:

  • Camphor essential oil for topical use 
  • Camphor balms and salves for skin application
  • Diluted camphor water as a traditional nasal spray
  • Camphor liniment oils to massage into sore muscles and joints
  • Strictly measured camphor capsules for oral consumption  

However, given the potency of concentrated camphor, these preparations should only be properly prescribed and compounded under a licensed professional's direction. Only should camphor supplements or extracts be self-administered with thorough medical guidance.

Side Effects And Safety Considerations

While largely safe and effective with careful usage, camphor does pose some health risks worth noting. Documented side effects generally emerge only with a sizable overdose but may include:  

  • Liver damage 
  • Harmful neurological reactions like seizures 
  • Skin and membrane irritation at application sites  
  • Additional poisoning symptoms of vomiting, convulsions, and more depending on the camphor amount and bodily exposure

Special Precautions And Warnings With Camphor

Notable safety precautions also apply to the following groups:

1. When Ingested 

Consuming camphor by mouth is considered unsafe and can lead to severe, even fatal, side effects. Due to the significant risks, oral camphor should be strictly avoided except under medical supervision for special circumstances. Even small accidental doses have caused poisoning, requiring immediate emergency care. Essentially, ingesting camphor extracts without doctor approval can be life-threatening.  

2. When Applied to Skin

Research suggests topical camphor is likely safe in modest concentrations between 0.1-11% when applied cautiously short-term to healthy skin. However, some users may still experience localised redness, stinging or irritation. It remains to be seen whether the benefits outweigh the risks for long-term or widespread use. Additionally, broken skin can dangerously increase camphor absorption, so only intact areas should ever receive topicals. Heating products like muscle rubs can also worsen skin reactions, creating burns. Individuals should cease use and see a physician if they have adverse skin responses.

3. When Inhaled

Controlled inhaled doses from vapours are relatively safe for most adults in the short term. Still, overexposure from prolonged or highly concentrated inhalation remains inadvisable due to toxicity risks, even when it feels tolerable. The safest approach limits camphor inhalation to temporary medicinal purposes like relieving chest congestion. As always, those experiencing worrisome lasting effects should urgently seek medical intervention right away.  

Kapur - Camphor

4. During Pregnancy and Nursing

Significant uncertainties and biochemical response variability prevent declaring all topical pregnancy use categorically "unsafe". However, ingesting any oral camphor during pregnancy is clearly inadvisable from toxicity potentials alone. Since camphor may impact hormones and carry documented pregnancy complication links, avoiding exposure remains the best practice absent physician approval. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology takes no official stance either way regarding external use. Therefore, pregnant or nursing women should exercise extreme caution with camphor.  

5. With Children

Evidence confirms children face greater sensitivity to camphor's effects and toxicity. Their developing bodies seem less capable of processing even absorbed external amounts safely. As minor ingestion can rapidly provoke life-threatening seizures in youths, guardians must keep oral camphor rigorously away from kids too young to comprehend poisoning dangers. Due to these factors, providers typically recommend no child utilise any camphor without a medical directive. Parents should also watch for skin changes during the rare instances of pediatric-approved usage and promptly quit all camphor if apparent problems emerge.  

6. With Liver Conditions  

Multiple studies connect therapeutic oral ingestion, absorption through wounded skin, or long-term higher topical camphor with possible liver injury risks, even for healthy patients. This remains especially concerning as many utilise camphor aromatics during illness when hepatic function drops. Furthermore, patients currently battling liver diseases could suffer medication interactions and thus face more severe side effects. Consequently, individuals with known liver issues need to discuss camphor avoidance with their healthcare providers.  

While camphor exhibits much remedial promise, upholding responsible safety practices remains paramount for consumer protection. Still, education and regulation surrounding traditional camphor use may enable societies to leverage its therapeutic potential while preventing avoidable dangers responsibly.

Interactions With Other Drugs

It is essential to keep in mind not to use Camphor with hepatotoxic drugs (medications that can damage the liver) as this can increase the risk of liver damage. Therefore, your Ayurvedic physician'sphysician's advice is to be followed thoroughly, as their prescription is based on keeping your health condition in mind. Please ensure to disclose all medications prescribed and currently being used to your doctor at the time of consultation.  


Camphor has been used for centuries to treat respiratory ailments, pain, skin conditions, and more. While there is limited clinical evidence of its efficacy and safety, it has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antitussive, and analgesic properties. Before using camphor medicinally, it is recommended to consult with licensed healthcare professionals for appropriate sourcing, preparation, and dosing. Further research is required to substantiate its therapeutic potential and risks.


Zandu Ayurvedic Team

Zandu Ayurvedic Team has a panel of over 10 BAMS (Ayurvedacharya), boasting a collective experience of over 50 years. With a deep-rooted understanding of Ayurveda, they are committed to sharing their expertise & knowledge through our blogs.
We use all kinds of Ayurvedic references in our content. Please use the contact form for any editorial queries.

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